Hot Shooting Bulls Crush Rockets

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By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune reporter

This is what the Bulls do. They respond to adversity.

This trait hasn’t produced any championships yet but it has produced plenty of thrills, including Thursday’s 111-87 dismantling of a Rockets team that had gone 13-3 since Feb. 1.

Shrugging off their dismal performance in Tuesday’s loss to the Spurs, the Bulls led wire-to-wire and now are 12-1 following their previous 13 defeats. They haven’t lost two straight since Feb. 3.

“When we don’t perform to near our ability or potential, it bothers us,” Kirk Hinrich said. “There’s a lot of pride in here.”

Contributions were everywhere. Joakim Noah fell one assist shy of his fourth triple-double this season and played solid defense on Dwight Howard, goading him into a technical foul and seven turnovers.

Carlos Boozer scored 10 of the first 12 points en route to 18, his most since Feb. 19. Thanks to ball movement that eventually produced a season-high 35 assists, the Bulls opened the second half with a 16-0 run.

They sank a season-high 14 3-pointers, with Kirk Hinrich making his first five en route to 19 points. And Taj Gibson posterized Omer Asik with a fourth-quarter dunk.

But if one performance symbolized the Bulls’ bloodied but unbowed season, Mike Dunleavy provided it.

After taking a second-quarter charge from Chandler Parsons, Dunleavy gushed blood from above his right eye, running straight to the locker room for attention. Listed as questionable to return, Dunleavy started the second half after receiving 10 stitches, took another charge from James Harden and scored 18 points in the quarter after a scoreless first half. He finished with a game-high 21.

“When you talk about toughness, that’s toughness,” Thibodeau said.

Dunleavy, who said he answered questions for a concussion test, sported a huge welt above his eye afterward. He also said his neck was sore from the whiplash after the contact.

“It feels all right,” Dunleavy said. “They did a good job stitching me up. The doctor said I had thick skin. I’ve heard that before.”

He needed it for Noah’s classic postgame tweak.

“He had a huge knot, looking like a white (Evander) Holyfield,” Noah said. “But gutting it out in the second half, it was good for (alma mater) Duke’s street reputation.”

Defensively, Jimmy Butler held Harden to eight points, well below his average of 24.9 entering.

“They bullied us off our spots,” said Jeremy Lin, who scored 21.

And the Rockets, who entered averaging 106.5 points, managed just 35.4 percent shooting.

“They kicked our ass up one side of the court and down the other,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.

That’s what the Bulls typically do after a loss.

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